Is Going to Conferences Worth the Hassle? #WCEU – Transparency Report #41

Transparency Report #41

Welcome to the 41st edition of the monthly transparency report (for June 2018). In this series, I do my best to share what’s been going on in the company, what we’ve learned, and how you can apply it to your business, too. Click here to see the previous reports.

June is traditionally the “WordCamp Europe month” for us. The 2018 conference was our third one in a row that we attended as a team. I’ll talk some about that and then move onto other topics related to our latest product releases, decision making, and other fun stuff.

After WCEU 2018

Okay, so the event was fun, even despite the fact that my speaking application was rejected (bummer).

It was probably the year that we were the most involved as a team nonetheless. More on that in a minute.

But … was it worth it?

Well, it’s hard to say, actually.

I personally took a very relaxed approach towards this year’s event. I was there mostly to meet the team, volunteer, and just enjoy the event without anything specific on the agenda. Unlike the previous years, where I was usually all over the place talking to people and networking. I was also not as excited about the event as I was the last couple of years.

On the other hand, the team was more involved. Nearly everyone volunteered, Sabina and Rodica were part of the organizing team, and Adelina and Chris worked the floor as part of our media partner commitment, producing some fascinating interviews featuring speakers and attendees at the event.

Overall, there were a lot of opportunities for everybody to learn new things, meet with people who they usually work with only remotely, make new friends, etc.

In that sense, the event is a valuable experience for each person, but it still might not be the most optimized use of everyone’s time, company-wise.

Don’t get me wrong, those kinds of experiences can do a lot for team building, camaraderie, and other things, but there still might be different, more effective ways to build those aspects apart from going to WCEUs together.

Of course, the added value with WCEU is that, through volunteering, everyone gets to be a part of a big, non-work project with a lot of moving parts, and play a role in it. Plus, we’re giving back to the WordPress community itself, which is the whole reason the WordPress landscape has become what it is now.

So, overall, my guess is that attendingWCEUs is probably worth it for our company over the long term and creates a lot of great experiences for everyone. However, coming up with any accurate data on how valuable it actually is might be impossible. So it’s more of a gut feeling.

Still, next year, we will be looking at various ways to experiment how we want to be involved with the event and what else we can do to maximize the benefits for all parties.

I’m curious, what’s your take on conferences? How do you approach them and why?

More specifically, are you happy to take your whole team to a conference or is it not something possible in your situation? If so, why?

Oh, and speaking of community and being involved, Rodica is the Lead Organizer of this year’s WordCamp Bucharest!

Go here to apply, get tickets, learn what’s up with the conference.

And if you do visit, you’ll be welcomed to our office to satisfy all your co-working needs. 😃

Product lineup changes

Last month I wrote about the CodeinWP redesign and relaunch, so this month it’s ThemeIsle’s turn!

We’ll be presenting the new design and relaunching the website shortly.

We actually started to work on that around half a year ago. Unfortunately, the designer had to face some family issues, and the project got delayed.

We’re back at it now, though, finalizing some design decisions and working out a plan for implementation.

Same as for CodeinWP, we want the new website to be fast, mobile-friendly (and using AMP), and we’ll probably experiment more with Gutenberg blocks as well.

Here’s a quick glance at one of our new logo experiments:

ThemeIsle logo experiments

But ThemeIsle isn’t the only significant project we’ve been working on…

What’s next for OrbitFox

As you may remember, OrbitFox started as a small companion plugin to deliver the custom features that were initially banned by the WordPress repo from our Zerif theme.

But then, we decided to turn it into something much more than that and aim to make it a useful tool for all our users, not just the ones on Zerif.

The idea was to offer an all-in-one solution handling small tasks that most websites need handling, and to offer it for free – even when dealing with some otherwise premium features. Like, for instance:

We launched a new Cookie Notice module, added more site templates, and released two new services in beta:

  • Image CDN and Optimization
  • Safe Updates

Here’s an example look at CDN stats from the module:

CDN stats

However, after getting more feedback on the business model, we’ve decided that it’s probably better at this point to keep advanced features such as CDN + image optimization as a standalone tool.

This solution is already here – we’ve named it Optimole – and it is powering most of our high-traffic sites. While it is still in Beta, you can request a free trial and start optimizing.

As for OrbitFox, it’s going to stay a free product.

Rethinking themes

We’ve been spending most of our dev time rewriting Hestia and developing an import/export feature for it.

We’re implementing the new code both to make it easier to maintain the theme in the future and to set the groundwork to fork it into something much simpler, built with page builders and with future WordPress editing experience in mind.

hestia

So instead of trying to jump immediately into building a new theme from scratch, while more painful, we wanted to improve the existing codebase. Hestia will hopefully have a long lifespan, so it’s crucial for both us and the users to keep it updated and secure.

Lastly, if you’re wondering how our themes department is doing financially, we saw $78,000 in gross revenue last month (themes and packages sold at ThemeIsle.com).

Commenting on work itself

Growing a company is a challenging task on many levels. Even setting aside the key aspects – such as where do you get revenue from – things like managing everyone’s work, hiring new people and so on certainly get me out of my comfort zone.

Luckily, I am not the first person on earth who has been in this position so I can turn to various sources for help and talk with other entrepreneurs who have also dealt with similar challenges.

While I tried several times in the past to improve the way we work, this time it’s a bit different. I have already taken steps to get both internal help within the team by sharing responsibilities, as well as external help by asking questions and listening more to what other entrepreneurs are advising me. I also try to be accountable for the advice I get.

Overall, the main takeaway here is that you shouldn’t expect to find a silver-bullet solution out of the blue. It’s better to brainstorm and put small ideas and improvements into practice. Most of them might not stand the test of time, but a couple will have a significant impact on your (team’s) productivity and overall output.

This is what getting out of the comfort zone should be about. You do one new thing, see how it performs. Then either keep doing it or adapt.

I was curious what other entrepreneurs think about this, so I asked a couple of them simply what it is that keeps them going, why they continue to work, etc.

One thing that many repeated was along the lines of, “It’s my duty to do what I am best at” or “I was gifted with those skills and I should put them to use, instead of lying on a beach.”

There are probably various ways to look at these statements, so I will just leave them here so that everybody can interpret for themselves.

Last but not least, there was a question that Akshat Choudhary of BlogVault asked, “If you can partner with anybody in the space, which partnership can double your business?”

This is a good question, and it illustrates the situation of many a WordPress company in this market. I would have asked either StudioPress or iThemes this question if I had a chance.

And how would you answer this question?

Okay, that’s all I have for you this month. As always, thanks for reading and for supporting us! Stay updated and get new reports delivered to you by subscribing here:

All edits and witty rewrites by Karol K.